It’s July now, and I assumed that when I wrote this blog post, we would be in a post-COVID world and that I would be giving you tangible suggestions for how to produce a live event post-COVID. Hilarious, right? When COVID hit in March, it first felt like a blip on the radar, then it got bigger, and bigger, and bigger. I think it was mid-April, while Americans were deep in SIPing mode, that I had the idea to write a three-part series about how COVID is affecting the live event production world. Speaking of, the first two articles can be found HERE and HERE. The first piece was a “state of nonprofit events” survey. And the second piece touched on virtual events, with the “yay” or “nay” question plaguing all of us.
Live Event Production: NOW
And here we are with the final written piece. Producing a live event in a post-COVID world. Are we currently in a post-COVID world? Hell no. BUT, these tips can help us now as we are in the thick of it AND can also be useful as we manage the slowwwwwww (at least in CA) easing of restrictions in regards to live event production.
- While we are deep in the watching and waiting mode, I recommend you update your vendor Rolodex. For one, sadly enough, many vendors will go out of business. Now is the time to show your humanity and reach out. Check-in on people and see how things are faring in their world. Vendors might also have added new offerings to their portfolios. For example, your go-to printing company might now offer branded masks at volume discounts. Or your favorite rental company might now offer COVID related event supplies I recently got a great email from Blueprint Studios highlighting their new collection of things such as floor decals, hand sanitizer stations, and protective barriers. Other vendors to source include PPE, thermometers, temperature taking stations, and digital platforms for contact tracing.
- Information gather. Listen to city, county, and state officials. Your “local” officials will have the most relevant event information to your area. Also, consult professional associations you are a part of. Chances are they’re likely hosting webinars/discussions on this topic.
- Speak to your peers. Ask others what’s working and what’s not working in areas that might be open before your local area. If you don’t have friends in other counties or states, consider joining an events Facebook or LinkedIn group in one of those areas.
- Start studying square footage calculators and other digital solutions for how to draw up room diagrams in a post-COVIID world. Banquet Tables Pro has a basic square footage calculator. You might be surprised to learn new (much lower) room capacities once you consider social distancing.
- Strong, clear, and concise event communication. This includes pre-during, and post events. Now more than ever, guests need MORE information. Help them gain clarity on what they need to do as an attendee, and what they can expect as an attendee. This will make for fewer surprises and expectations not being met once they are onsite. As for post-event, communication thanking guests for attending is important. These days, if you leave your house, you are taking a risk. Appreciation and gratitude both go a long way. Lastly, post-event communication also includes transparency on any infections that occur post-event.
- Communication and enforcement of COVID-specific event rules. This includes things like: enforcing social distancing, mask-wearing, temperature/health checks, etc. This ALL needs to be determined ahead of time, outlined in writing, and signed by both the planner and the client. I suggest having these conversations upfront and in advance of the event. These conversations are to include scenario planning. For example, if your event requires masks, and a guest takes off a mask during an event #1 who is responsible for communicating to the guest and #2 who is responsible for enforcing the rule (i.e. ejecting a guest) should the guest not want to comply? In addition to having a signed document, I’d recommend converting these to FAQs that can be emailed to guests’ pre-event.
Above all else, your focus needs to be on agility. You MUST be agile in this new post-COVID event world. Things will change and will change frequently. As the planner, our new primary goal is to ensure that we can host guests safely, while also allowing our clients to fulfill the goals of their event.
I propose also planning for some sort of hybrid flexibility option. This could mean solely an in-person event, a hybrid event, or an entirely virtual event. In-person is self-explanatory for us planners. A hybrid option could work for an event that might have a large number of senior citizen attendees. This could mean a smaller in-person event for those who feel safe attending, as well as a live stream, digital option for those who want to tune in from home.
And unfortunately, there is always the possibility that your event will have to shift completely virtual. For that option, I’d consider hiring a team/platform to assist in bringing the event virtual. I recently took a demo of The One Up Group’s new digital event platform. It is interactive, modular, visually appealing, and user friendly. This robust platform offers the ability to feature multiple speakers (content can be pre-recorded or can be "live" with the use of a green screen). The platform can build out virtual booths with branding and unique content. Also, attendees of the event can network and chat live and in real-time. Very cool stuff as you consider how to create connections and networking opportunities from a purely virtual event.
Hang in there my event producer friends. We are all in this together. Let us lean on each other in these difficult times and use each other as resources as we slowly enter this new post-COVID live event production world.